It has to be said: we are probably not going to see a democratic revolution in Iran. There is every reason to believe Ahmadinejad will remain in power in the near future.
That wouldn’t mean that the current activity is useless or unproductive. But it leads, I suspect, in a terrible direction. This civic unrest and agitation could be a building block to a democratic challenge to the status quo leadership that could be too popular to ignore, or to a real armed revolution. At the very least, it could further define the pro-democracy youth movement inside of Iran. But the actions of Israel could completely undermine that movement. The continued rule of Ahmadinejad, and the inflammatory rhetoric he brings with him, will lead to an Israeli bombardment, whatever the legitimacy of the election. And war from Israel would set the cause of reform in Iran back years. In times of war, the public retrenches to support of status quo governments and authoritarians, and particularly to those like Ahmadinejad who have no problem with enflaming ethnic and nationalist sentiments. Many of the moderates who desire reform, or the young religious students now aligned with the Green movement, could be swayed towards support of the status quo government through mutual antipathy towards Israel.
And what after the bombardment? Even if Israel succeeds in destroying Iran’s nuclear capabilities– and I’m far from certain they’d succeed– how would it change the fundamental security dynamic of the region? Look, preventing access to nuclear weapons has involved the difficulty of using the technology and the difficulty in obtaining fissionable materials. The basic technology is over 60 years old now, and our era’s combination of porous borders and the destitution of the Russian state makes the availability of uranium (or whatever) an inevitability for people with patience and money. A bombed Iran could simply rebuild its nuclear facilities, and would have a far better case for needing nuclear weapons after an unprovoked attack. Meanwhile, much pro-democracy, pro-reform sentiment would been funnelled instead into anger towards Israel. This is all assuming Israel is not foolish enough to try to militarily occupy Iran, an action that would amount to national suicide for the Israeli state.
Netanyahu is bent on war. He has demonstrated time and again that he is a man who only understands and desires force. This is a disaster for Israel and those who, like me, want it to be a secure and moral state. A reformed and prosperous Iran is the greatest chance for regional order and peace of mind for Israel. But a sustained Israeli campaign against Iran would guarantee the next government of Iran bears exactly as much antipathy for Israel as the current one.